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Class-E Oscillators as Wireless Power Transmitters

for Biomedical Implants


Anthony N. Laskovski

Mehmet R. Yuce

School of Electrical Engineering and


Computer Science
The University of Newcastle
Callaghan, NSW, Australia 2308
Email: alasko@ieee.org

School of Electrical Engineering and


Computer Science
The University of Newcastle
Callaghan, NSW, Australia 2308
Email: Mehmet.Yuce@newcastle.edu.au

AbstractThis paper presents the use of Class-E oscillators


as inductive power transmitters for implanted telemetry devices
that transmit information sensed by biosensors. Several Class-E
oscillators are compared with an equivalent Class-E amplier,
showing higher efciency while maintaining frequency clarity,
stability and accuracy. Energy has been successfully transferred
to a receiving inductor 1.5cm away, which has been rectied to
produce a 1VDC signal.

I. I NTRODUCTION
Wireless power transmitters form an important role in supplying energy to implanted electronic devices and biosensors.
Inductive coupling was introduced to biomedical implants to
recharge implanted batteries for devices such as pacemakers
in order to avoid periodic surgery to replace at batteries [1]
[2].
As biomedical implant technology progresses with developments such as cochlear and retinal prosthesis, attention is
increasingly being focused on the supply of constant wireless
power within tight space and power constraints. As space
restrictions tighten, so does the allowable size of components
in the implanted environment. This implies that higher frequencies of operation are required such that the size of circuit
components is reduced. However, the transfer of energy to
implanted devices becomes less efcient as the frequency of
transmission increases [3]. This makes the design of highly
efcient higher frequency power transmitters a point of interest.
The concepts behind inductive power transfer may be understood by considering a weakly coupled transformer, with a
primary coil from which energy is transmitted and a secondary
coil at which energy is received. The core of this transformer is
a combination air and several layers of human tissue between
the two coils. Once the energy is received at the secondary coil,
it is rectied and regulated as a DC supply for the implanted
electronics and biosensors. The primary coil external to the
body is driven by a power transmitter.
Given that space restrictions cause a natural progression
towards smaller coils and therefore higher transmission frequencies, power transmitters have been developed at higher
frequencies. One particular eld of interest has been switching
power ampliers. They operate efciently at higher frequen-

Fig. 1.

The Class-E amplier [5]

Fig. 2.

The Class-E oscillator [6]

cies, which is why the Class-E power amplier has been


widely adopted as the means by which energy is inductively
transferred to an implanted device [4].
Shown in Fig. 1, the Class-E amplier comprises an inductor L2 . This inductor represents the primary coil for the
transmission of wireless energy to an implanted device. The
ampliers efciency at high frequencies is attributed to its
ability to hold zero charge across the terminals of the transistor
while it is switching. Not only is the voltage designed to
be zero, but so is the rate of change of voltage (dv/dt). It
allows for a power amplier which efciently transmits energy
across L2 according to the switching frequency supplied by
the input voltage vi . The capacitor C1 also absorbs parasitic

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capacitance that exists between transistor terminals, which


becomes increasingly signicant at higher frequencies where
design parameters are in the order of parasitic impedances [5],
[7], [8].
The Class-E amplier works efciently at high frequencies,
however the fact that it is a switching power amplier means
that it requires a high frequency square-wave input in order
to operate effectively. This assumption does not consider the
energy that is required to produce the square-wave input using
a dedicated oscillator, be it a crystal or LC oscillator.
The idea of feeding an oscillated output signal back to the
input of the amplier implies that the circuit would be selfoscillating, similar to the commonly known Colpitts oscillator,
while operating with zero switching conditions. This is the
concept behind the Class-E oscillator as shown in Fig, 2 [6].
Additional circuit elements have been added to form the
Class-E oscillator, namely the feedback elements C3 , C4 and
L3 . It was designed by Ebert et al. to constructively shift the
phase of the feedback point of the oscillator [6]. The diode
D1 is placed at the input of the transistor in order to clip the
input signal such that it appears as a square wave, satisfying
the requirement of the Class-E circuit to have a square-wave
input.
Given that low power consumption is advantageous in
biomedical systems, it is useful to consider a self oscillating
Class-E oscillator as a wireless power transmitter rather than
a Class-E power amplier. Similar to the power amplier, the
oscillator would transmit energy through L2 .

Fig. 3. A 27MHz Class-E amplier constructed in hardware, driven by a


crystal oscillator.

II. D ESIGN AND I MPLEMENTATION OF C LASS -E


T RANSMITTERS
A. Comparison of Class-E Topologies
In order to determine whether using a Class-E oscillator
is advantageous over a Class-E amplier, similarly designed
circuits have been constructed and tested with the main circuit
elements chosen to be as similar as possible. The transistor
used for all of the ve circuits is BC547B from Fairchild
Semiconductors. The elements of the Class-E circuits have
been determined according to [8], and all of the circuits are
supplied with a 3V supply. The inductor L2 is in fact a
spiral inductor, forming the primary coil for the transfer of
inductively transferred power.
The rst power transmitter circuit uses the Class-E amplier,
as shown in Fig.3. The 27-MHz clock input signal to the
amplier is produced by the crystal oscillator ACHL-27MHZEK. Small 1 measurement-resistors Rmeas have been positioned to measure the total current and current through the
transmission coil such that the input and output power can
be measured. The 27MHz frequency of transmission is in the
allowable limits of the Industrial, Scientic and Medical (ISM)
band.
The power used by the circuit is 77mW (18.9dBm), which is
determined by multiplying the supply voltage with the r.m.s.
value of the total current. The output power of 11.2dBm is
calculated by multiplying the r.m.s. voltage and current across

Fig. 4. Schematic diagram of a Class-E oscillator with an LC feedback


network and element between the transistors base and emitter terminals, being
either a 100k resistor or a Schottky diode.

and through the inductor L2 . This corresponds to an efciency


of 17%.
The next step of the comparison involves the construction
of the Class-E oscillator circuit, shown in Fig.4. This differs
from the Class-E oscillator shown in Fig.2 in that the load
is represented by the inductor L2 rather than a resistor. The
feedback point is also taken between L2 and C2 , and consists
of an LC pair in order to reverse the phase difference that is
incurred at the point across L2 . The element between the base
and emitter of Q1 is a 100k biasing resistor. The power
used by this circuit is 35mW (15.5dBm) and 11.4dBm is
transmitted, corresponding to an efciency of 39%. While this
is much higher than the efciency of the Class-E Amplier of
Fig.3, the 34MHz frequency of the output is higher than the
desired 27MHz value. This is due to the fact that the accuracy
of the circuits frequency is controlled solely by the accuracy
of its individual inductor and capacitor values.
A variant of this circuit has been implemented by inserting
a 27MHz crystal (Citizen America CS1027.000MABJ-UT) as

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Fig. 6. Voltage at the collector of Q1 in Fig. 5 with a 9V supply and a 3V


Zener diode between the base and emitter.
Fig. 5. Schematic diagram of a Class-E oscillator with a 27MHz Crystal
feedback network and element between the transistors base and emitter
terminals, being either a 100k resistor or a Zener diode.

the feedback network in order to create a stable frequency. This


crystal is not an oscillator itself, but an accurate impedance
that ensures the input frequency to the transistor is 27MHz.
The schematic of this circuit is shown in Fig.5, with the baseemitter element being 100k resistor. The power used by
the circuit has been measured to be 112mW (20.5dBm) and
the output power is also 20.5dBm, which corresponds to a
measured efciency of 100%. This is attributed to negligibly
small losses in the biasing circuit of the amplier and zeroswitching conditions at the collector of the transistor.
B. Class-E Oscillators biased with Diodes
Class-E oscillators presented in literature have employed
Schottky diodes across the base and emitter of the circuits
transistors [6]. This is usually done to clip the input signal such
that it approximates a square-wave input, which is preferred
as the transistor continues to operate as a switch.
The LC feedback Class-E oscillator of Fig.4 has been implemented using a Schottky diode from Fairchild Semiconductors
(MBR0520L), which is the same diode used in [6]. The power
used by this circuit is 42mW (16.2dBm) and an output power
of 9.9dBm is produced, corresponding to an efciency of 23%,
which is considerably lower than the 39% efciency achieved
with a 100k resistor in place of the diode. Zener diodes are
a more suitable option than the Schottky diode used, however
the voltage level of the output is not high enough to switch
the transistor.
A 3V Zener diode (NXP-BZX384-C3V0) has been implemented as the element between the base and emitter of Q1
in a Class-E oscillator based on Fig.5. The circuit works
in that the feedback voltage is high enough to drive the
transistor and Zener diode. The circuits power usage has been
recorded as 63mW (18dBm), with an output power of 18dBm.
This mathematically corresponds to 100% efciency, and is
attributed to negligibly small losses in the biasing circuit of

the amplier and zero-switching conditions at the collector of


the transistor.
The results of these experiments are summarised in Table I.
The rst signicant point is that using a feedback network in
the Class-E circuit improves the efciency of the transmitter,
in that a dedicating oscillating unit is no longer required.
Another signicant point is that including a crystal in the
feedback network allows the frequency of the transmitter to
be controlled, rather than relying on the accuracy of individual
inductors and capacitors, which may cause unstable or inaccurate transmission frequencies.
The use of zener diodes on the base of the circuits transmitter makes little difference on the performance of the amplier,
however it may be an important to regulate the output of the
transmitter in the case that the feedback voltage becomes too
high.
C. Class-E Oscillator with Crystal Feedback
A higher-power Class-E oscillator based on Fig.5 has been
tested, operating at 9V and using the Zener diode (NXPBZX384-C3V0). The voltage at the collector of the transistor
is shown in Fig.6, which ranges from 3V to over 15V. Ideally
the lowest point should be 0V, as this would remove the wasted
energy discharged on the capacitor C1 .
The input voltage at the transistor is shown in Fig.7, where
the intended function of the Zener diode can be seen as the
input signal is clipped at 3V. The output voltage across VL2
is shown in Fig.8, measuring at 18V. As indicated by the
waveform, it is a reasonably clean 27MHz sinusoidal wave.
The input power used by this circuit measures at 794mW
(29dBm), with an output power of 28dBm. This corresponds
to a measured efciency of 80%. The likely cause of the
circuits deviation from 100% efciency is the voltage at the
collector not reaching zero during the transistors switching
points, causing a discharge of energy from C1 .
D. Wireless Power Transfer
The higher-power Class-E oscillator of Section II-C has
been tested as a wireless power transmitter, with L2 rep-

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TABLE I
C OMPARISONS BETWEEN C LASS -E C IRCUITS
Class-E Circuit
Amplier of Fig.3
Oscillator with LC feedback, Fig.4
Oscillator with Crystal Feedback, Fig.5
Oscillator with LC feedback, Fig.4
Oscillator with Crystal Feedback, Fig.5

B/E Element
100k
100k
Schotky Diode
Zener Diode

f
27MHz
34MHz
27MHz
34MHz
27MHz

Power Use
18.9 dBm
15.5 dBm
20.5 dBm
16.2 dBm
18.0 dBm

Fig. 9.

VL2 pp
1.6 V
0.9 V
7.0 V
1.2 V
6.7 V

Output Power
11.2 dBm
11.4 dBm
20.5 dBm
9.9 dBm
18.0 dBm

Stacked spiral receiving inductor [9].

Fig. 7. Voltage at the input of Q1 in Fig. 5 with a 9V supply and a 3V


Zener diode between the base and emitter.

Fig. 10. Voltage received on a spiral coil from the transmitter shown in Fig.
5 with a 9V supply and a 3V Zener diode between the base and emitter.
Fig. 8. Voltage across output spiral L2 in Fig. 5 with a 9V supply and a
3V Zener diode between the base and emitter.

resenting the transmitter spiral. The receiving coil is the


stacked spiral inductor of Fig.9, which was designed for use
in biological implants.
At a distance of 1.5cm a voltage of 1.5Vpp is received on
the coil. This signal has been rectied to produce the 1V
signal shown in Fig.11, which is a level at which current IC
technologies and biosensors operate at.
III. C ONCLUSION
This paper proposes the use of Class-E oscillators as inductive power transmitters for implanted telemetry devices
that transmit information read by biosensors. Several ClassE oscillators were compared with the commonly used Class-E
amplier. The Class-E oscillators were determined to be more

Fig. 11. Rectied voltage received on a spiral coil from the transmitter
shown in Fig. 5 with a 9V supply and a 3V Zener diode between the base
and emitter.

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efcient when considering the power used by the input signal


to the amplier.
Different feedback options are compared amongst Class-E
oscillators, and it is proposed that a crystal feedback network
ensures a more efcient circuit with a more stable and better
controlled frequency. The use of Zener diodes at the input of
the oscillator is determined to be advantageous when operating
at higher input voltage levels, in that the input is clipped to the
diodes voltage rating, allowing the Class-E load to operate as
designed.
A higher-power Class-E oscillator has been constructed
based on the results of the circuit comparisons, transmitting
794mW (28dBm) of power at 27MHz and operating at a
frequency of 80%. This was successfully received and rectied
to produce a 1V signal on a secondary inductor 1.5cm away,
which is in the useful range for biosensor applications.
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